This has been a devastating year for the conference industry in Washington, D.C., with the federal government dramatically slashing spending on hotels, conference centers, and related expenses. If that wasn’t tough enough for an already startled industry, more and more contractors have taken the government’s lead to heart and followed suit.

Many local businesses are wondering how hotels and conference venues will survive this shift in policy and attitudes. The abrupt fallout from recent fiscal scandals has put all government agencies on alert, reducing funding for conferences.

The grim state of the conference industry hasn’t gone unnoticed. A recent article in the Washington Post found:

  • Since 2011, the government has spent millions of dollars in cancellation fees for hotel and conference space
  • On average, conference sales are down about 40 percent from last year
  • Since April 2011, GSA canceled 47 conferences and cut $11 million in related spending
  • The Labor Department is in the process of eliminating 100 conferences
  • The State Department will increasingly hold meetings in government facilities instead of hotels

It is estimated that in the last six months, the government has cut conference expenses by over $600 million. These severe cuts are due to scandals involving agencies which spend lavish amounts of money on items that were later deemed excessive and wasteful by investigators. Due to these findings there is tighter scrutiny and oversight of all government and military expenses related to travel, entertainment, conferences, and meetings. With ever-increasing budget cuts already in process, justification of expenses for those events will be more difficult to produce and fund.

How the hotel and conference industry manages in the face of this drastic situation is yet to be fully known. The current atmosphere of fiscal austerity and caution related to government spending for conferences and travel may continue for years to come, and that will certainly have a lasting impact on the industry and the national capital region.


Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who currently works as a professional writer, blogger, social media expert, commentator, editor and public affairs practitioner. Diana previously worked as an editor and senior communications analyst for the Department of Defense.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.